March 16, 2006 — -- Many people love animals and have pets, but 15 percent of the population is allergic to dogs and cats, and 30 percent of people with asthma are allergic to pets.
The dander, which comes from pets' saliva and sebaceous gland secretions, causes irritations.
Dr. Marty Becker, the "Good Morning America" veterinary contributor, said not to fear, there are ways to curb allergies and peacefully coexist with a furry friend. The most important thing, he said, is to make sure the animal is the source of the allergy. Becker said that allergists could be quick to point to pets as a problem but that reputable testing was a must.
He said a new study on pet allergies found that using a new compound made from the allergy-producing protein in cat saliva might help end cat allergies -- almost like a cat-allergy vaccine. He also said that new research found that being exposed to pets early in life often could lead to fewer allergies and instances of asthma in the long run.
Yet if the allergies are not going away, Becker said there are some effective ways to reduce symptoms.
Cats cause more allergies than dogs. Male cats are worse than female cats, and dark cats are worse than light-haired cats. A short-haired dog is better than a long-haired dog. Smaller is also better because that means less body surface to trap dander.
Becker said there were also genetically engineered pets that produced no response at all or decreased people's response to existing pets.
Becker said that there were shampoos geared toward cleaning dander from your pet's skin. Because dander lives in the pet's hair, grooming to reduce shedding is important.
According to an American Pet Products Manufacturers Association survey, shedding is the No. 2 drawback of owning a cat and the No. 3 obstacle to owning a dog.
Becker said there were some new high-tech products on the market such as the speedy groom brush, which says it gets rid of dander when you brush your pet and then clean the brush. A disposable wipe is attached to the brush. After grooming, you lift off the wipe and throw it and the dander away. Becker also said wet wipes and Spotless Paw grooming products were great ways to quickly and easily groom your pet.
Dogs can also wear K9 Top Coats, which help contain loose hair and dander, both inside and outside the home.
It's important to wash your hands after playing with your pet, Becker said. This prevents allergens and heavy dander from getting on your body and clothes. Moreover, since the real source of allergies is in your pet's saliva, letting your pet lick you is like asking for sneezes.
Your bedroom, where you spend the most time at home, is the most important place to keep clear of dander. HEPA filters and Swiffer cleaning products are very good at clearing the air and surfaces of pet hair and dander.